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Successfully Embracing Change

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Successful leaders who thrive during challenging times consistently demonstrate flexibility and a willingness to move their business in a new direction when necessary. However, before you can lead your team through an effective transition, it is important to assess your own obstacles to transformation and personal growth. When is the last time you challenged yourself to consider a shift in your career path?

Perhaps you have been at your current company for years and lately find yourself frustrated and unhappy. You are contemplating a change, but feel overwhelmed at the thought and have been avoiding the decision. Or possibly you have been offered a new internal career opportunity and along with excitement, you feel dread, discomfort and anxiety about the impending changes. Or as an owner you recognize the need to downsize or restructure your business, but have been reluctant to do so.

Why is it so difficult to commit to changes in our life, especially if we know how positive it will be for our personal and professional success?

The fact is, change is hard. In order to manage your emotions during major changes and transitions you will need to possess the three D's: desire, determination and dedication. You have to want to make the change, be willing to do the hard work involved in change, and be consistent in your changes over time. When contemplating major transformations the critical question becomes, “How willing are you to experience the discomfort that typically comes with change?

Inertia: the main obstacle
The main factor that impacts our willingness and desire to make changes and embrace new concepts is inertia. Inertia is experienced as a feeling of apathy or lethargy. It exerts a powerful pull on all of us resulting in reduced activity, feeling stuck in our current way of doing things and a reluctance to take risks.

Where you are in the life cycle of your career can also be a potential obstacle to change. How long you have been in your industry and your current firm can determine just how “inspired” you might be to move in a new direction. Ask yourself if your receptivity to new ideas is different than it was when you got into the business. Being aware of how much inertia you have built up over the years can be a critical step in getting “unstuck” in old patterns of thinking and behaving.

We all have behavioral patterns and comfort zones that we bring to our experiences and contribute to success. However, most successful people eventually plateau. A common response to this plateau is to work harder and faster doing what you have always done. The problem, of course, is that this rarely achieves the hoped for breakthrough. That is exactly the time you need to consider getting out of your comfort zone and embracing change.

Being uncomfortable might not be such a bad thing.

Experiencing some discomfort is often the first step in reaching new heights in your career. Most elite athletes are continuously challenging themselves to achieve their peak performance. What these elite athletes' behavior has taught the rest of us is: You must create challenges for yourself and move beyond your comfort zone to be able to achieve the next level of success.

Strategies for successful change
Often, when contemplating a major transition, the thought alone can feel overwhelming. And being overwhelmed generally does not lead to action. Incorporating the following principles will help to modify the anxiety and negative beliefs that can be an obstacle to your plan.

All complex behavior is simple behavior combined — The key to this behavioral concept is that in order to successfully embrace change you must break a new behavior into as many simple steps as you need to feel comfortable.

The Nike Principle — This simple law reminds us that for a new idea to work you do have to try it. We are often reluctant to try new ideas because our behavior is influenced largely by our emotions, and negative emotions or feelings are difficult to change. However, behavior is easier to change than emotions. So the good news is if you behave differently your feelings will trail behind.

Judger to Learner — Another powerful technique for making behavioral changes is shifting your mental framework. Most of us come to a situation with preconceived ideas of “how things should be.” By moving from certainty to curiosity, from judger to learner, we can allow ourselves to experience the situation from a new perspective and open ourselves up to more possibilities.

Assessing Your Motivation — Another key strategy for implementing change is to know exactly where you're coming from and what motivates you. Why do you do what you do? Sure, in business financial rewards play a role in your incentive to work hard, but for most people money alone is not the most significant motivator of their behavior.

What else motivates you? Is it the love of the challenge, the joy you find in the work itself, the relationships you have with your clients? What do you gain by success? Self-confidence, power, self-respect, a sense of achievement, self-worth? Knowing “what makes you tick” is not only empowering but essential if you are going to conquer the challenge of behavioral change.

The final question you need to answer is, “What are you willing to do differently to achieve your goals?” If you accept the personal challenge of getting “uncomfortable enough” to commit to doing things differently, you are well on your way to successfully embracing change.

Denise P. Federer, Ph.D., founder and principal of Federer Performance Management Group, has 27 years of experience working with key executives, business leaders and Fortune 500 companies as a behavioral psychologist, consultant, coach and trainer. She specializes in working with professionals in the financial industry, as well as family-owned and closely held businesses. She can be reached at: [email protected]


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